Mesothelioma and the Rust Belt

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One thing we know about mesothelioma and lung cancer is that they do not occur out of the blue. Some areas and some industries are hotter with asbestos than others. Because of our industrial history, the Great Lakes area is one of the nation's mesothelioma hot spots.

In our area, the hardest hit locales include Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Lorain, Youngstown and the area near Lake Erie Beach in New York.

The reasons are not hard to guess. The Great Lakes have been the industrial hub of this country going back over a century. Our population fed itself working in power houses, refineries, steel mills, shipyards, railroads, furnace makers, car plants and construction.

Asbestos is all around us

You can contract mesothelioma working in a brake shop. There are cases of individuals inhaling asbestosis and getting sick doing ordinary DIY work at home.

Shipping of taconite ore and other mined materials added millions of tons of asbestos to our waterways. Lake water was then routed to kitchen sinks and industrial processes.

All these industries involved asbestos. Asbestos was not commonly used before these industries developed. In the early 1900s, as cement became a primary material in construction, asbestos became an industry itself, strengthening new cement without adding weight and providing valuable protection from fire.

Historically, mesothelioma has hit the typical "working man" more than women or children. But not always -- asbestos has a habit of hitching a ride home with workers on their clothes and car seats. Spouses and children are exposed to the fibers, and too often, decades later, the symptoms of this dreaded disease showed up in our loved ones.

Mesothelioma is a catastrophic disease. There are no cures for it - only treatments to make it more endurable and to extend the sufferer's life.

The best that can be said

The best that can be said for it is that there is money for families of workers who are struck down. It is tough investigative work, discovering the source of the contamination and building a case establishing responsibility. But it is critical to compensating today victims of our past industrial success.

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